Sermon Notes (Page 10)

“God Can Even Use You” Luke 2:1-7

O little town of Bethlehem, how still we see thee lie. Above thy deep and dreamless sleep, the silent stars go by. Yet in thy dark streets shineth, the everlasting light. The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight. And at the time, Bethlehem had no idea how important that birth would be. The One whom Isaiah prophesied as the Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, and Prince of Peace had come into the world, into the sleepy little hamlet without much fanfare. It is believed that Jesus was born in the evening, because later we read that shepherds were keeping watch over their flock at night when the angel appeared to them heralding the good news of the birth of the Messiah. Silent stars, as referenced by the popular Christmas carol, maybe some livestock, and certainly Joseph watched Mary give birth to God’s Son. The dark streets provided a contrast that being birthed in a stable or cave was the One who would later call Himself the Light of the World. The hopes and fears of all the years were met that night in Bethlehem in the birth of Jesus.

 

 

“A Preview of Coming Attractions” Isaiah 9:2-7

Doesn’t our Sanctuary look beautiful? Our Decorating Committee has worked diligently this week to heighten our senses with the colors of the season. Tonight’s Hanging of the Green Service will remind us why we use the decorations that we use.
Most, if not all, of our homes will receive some decorating within the next couple of weeks. Holiday lights, Santa Clauses, inflatables, garlands, wreaths, Christmas trees, and nativity sets will be on display to help lift our spirits for the most festive time of the year. The shorter days and the colder temperatures mark a definite change, but Christmas really is the highlight of this time of year for Christian reasons and also for many other purposes.

“Living Thankfully” Ephesians 5:15-20

Back during the dark days of 1929, a group of ministers in the 
Northeast, all graduates of the Boston School of Theology, gathered to 
discuss how they should conduct their Thanksgiving Sunday services.  
Things were about as bad as they could get, with no sign of relief.  The 
bread lines were depressingly long; the stock market had plummeted, and 
the term Great Depression seemed an apt description for the mood of the 
country.  The ministers thought they should only lightly touch upon the 
subject of Thanksgiving in deference to the human misery all about them.  
After all, what was there to be thankful for?  But it was Dr. William L. Stiger, 
pastor of a large congregation in the city that rallied the group.  This was 
not the time, he suggested, to give mere passing mention to Thanksgiving, 
just the opposite.  This was the time for the nation to get matters in 
perspective and thank God for blessings always present, but perhaps 
suppressed due to intense hardship. 

“Focusing on Fundamentals” I Peter 4:7-11

When directors begin the season of practices in band or chorus, they 
begin to address fundamentals.  Centering on the basics becomes the 
lesson plan for the earliest days of practice.  After any lengthy hiatus, a 
competent director seeks to renew practice patterns.  More time gets spent 
on warming up.  The director may utilize breathing exercises.  Those 
playing a brass instrument may participate in maneuvers for their lips to 
solidify the connection to the mouthpiece.  Through some research I 
learned that brass players renew the ability to buzz their lips.  (I’m not sure 
exactly what this means.)  Scales, major and minor, need to be mastered 
again. 
Our New Testament Lesson today presents the reminder of focusing 
on fundamentals.  We have to know the basics before we can seek to solve 
timeless theological conundrums.  While I want my understanding of God to 
be stretched, occasionally we need to be reminded of the basics, because 
frankly, none of us have mastered these fundamentals.  No matter how 
long we have been followers of Christ, we still sin; we still fall short; we still 
miss the mark;  we still don’t do everything as Christ would have us do.  
The letters of I and II Peter are considered to be persecution 
literature, meaning that those who first read these words needed 
encouragement.  When Jesus ascended into heaven, he promised his 
followers that he would return.     

“It’s Not Always Easy” Luke 10:1-11, 16-20

St. Teresa of Avila said, “Christ has no body on earth but yours; no 
hands but yours; no feet but yours.  Yours are the eyes through which the 
compassion of Christ looks out to the world.  Yours are the feet with which 
he is to go about doing good.  Yours are the hands with which he is to bless 
others now.” 
Jesus is depending upon us.  Today’s New Testament Lesson 
provides a story which I think is relevant to the life of Madison Baptist 
Church now. 
The text opens with Jesus sending spies into cities where he 
intended to go.  He wanted them to go ahead of him to scout out the areas. 
Why 70?  Some think it was because Moses had appointed 70 elders 
to help him.  Others think the reference was associated with the 70 Gentile 
nations at that time.  I agree with the latter reference.  Luke is the gospel 
written for the Gentiles; those who first read Luke’s gospel were not those 
with Jewish roots.  Instead they were Gentile readers; Luke’s gospel

“Why Stay in the Tomb?” John 11:33-44

What a great week of revival we had! The music, sermons, and togetherness made for a wonderful time of worship and fellowship. At some time after selecting the revival date, it dawned on me that All Saints Day would follow the Revival. I questioned my choice of the Revival week, knowing that we perhaps could ride the euphoric revival wave a little longer. While many of us found ourselves on a spiritual mountain-top during the revival services, today’s service has a different feel to it. I am grateful for high-energy peaks, but I also realize that walking through the valleys becomes part of life. All of us have to go through the valleys, and we don’t walk alone.
What happens to others affects us; most of us are not like rocks in the sense that what is happening to those around us affects us. For eleven families in our church, today becomes another marker. The first Thanksgiving, Christmas, birthday, anniversary, and for some, the first Valentines Day, Mothers or Fathers Day brings back a myriad of emotions. No two people feel exactly the same. I never tell someone “I know exactly how you feel,” or “I feel exactly the way you do,” because the relationships I have are unique, just as the relationships you have are unique.

 

“Recipe for Revival” Nehemiah 1:1-11

In my first year as pastor of Madison Baptist Church, I asked our Church Council if we could plan a church-wide hospitality event on even-numbered years and have a church-wide revival on odd-numbered years. These emphases allow us to spend concentrated time focusing on serving others and then the following year to spend concentrated time focusing on our own spiritual growth. Our hospitality events have included adopting the City of Madison employees in 2012 and the Morgan County Fire Departments in 2014. We enjoyed the revival in 2013 with my friend Paul Baxley from First Baptist Athens preaching, and I am very excited about beginning our revival next week with my friend Jonathan Barlow preaching. While the choice of a revival preacher becomes critical, I also believe that the services should also include great music. Elsie Monk, as our Interim Minister of Music, continues to work the hours of a full-time Minister of Music. She has enlisted great choirs for the evening services, and I am hopeful that others from Calvary Baptist and Madison Presbyterian will attend on the nights when their choirs sing. I also hope to have many families to accompany the MCHS Chorus.
Some would say that the recipe for revival would be engaging preaching and meaningful music. I think there is more to that recipe.

“Are You Afraid of the Dark?” Genesis 28:10-22

I was astonished to learn that the recent tragic shooting at the community college in Oregon included the shooter asking the students, “Are you a Christian?” And then he shot them. I don’t understand that kind of evil; that represents a darkness which remains unfathomable. Those who witnessed these horrific murders certainly will be affected by Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, which has already been referenced. That memory will haunt those survivors forever.
In some areas of the world, practicing Christianity can become life-threatening. Some of our fellow Christians face dark days, and let’s face it: darkness can be scary. I speak not only of when the sun goes down, or when the electricity fails. All of us have walked through darkness, times in our lives when we couldn’t see light; times when the clouds hung lower than normal; times when living was hard. It is a proven fact that overcast, gray days add to depression. Per capita, there are more depressed people in areas where the sun doesn’t shine very often, like Alaska in the winter. Darkness can be scary. So today, I’d like to pose the question, “Are you afraid of the dark?”

“Different, Same, All Need Grace” I Corinthians 1:10-17

We are all different. We are all the same. We all need grace. That’s the message of World Communion Sunday.
We live in a great big world. This summer, when Jennifer and I were fortunate to attend the Baptist World Alliance meeting in South Africa, I was reminded of how different people are. As part of the worship service on Saturday, everyone received communion which was led by the outgoing and incoming Presidents of the BWA. The outgoing president was a white Virginian John Upton; the incoming President is Paul Msiza, a black South African pastor. All around me receiving the bread and the cup were people of many nations; 80 countries were represented. Nigerian women wore their native dress. Many others from the African continent wore bright colors. Europeans, Asians, Australians, South Americans, and of course North Americans took the bread, the cup and remembered the death of our Savior. We were all reminded that Christ died for all, that we, even though we were different, were all the same, and that everyone was in need of God’s grace.
People were not sent to specific areas of the arena to receive communion. We were not separated by kingdoms, because only one kingdom mattered and that was the Kingdom of God. To my right was a lady from South Africa. Diagonally behind us were folks from South Korea. Australians were two rows in front of us; Germans and Austrians were diagonally to my right. Americans were across the aisle from us to the left. We celebrated God’s great love for us as a family. “For God so loved the WORLD, that He gave his only begotten Son.” For God so loved all nations, that He gave his only begotten Son. This Jesus was not intended to be an exclusive Savior; he came for everyone. Different, same, all need grace.

“Give Your Life Away on Purpose” Matthew 6:19-24

 

The purpose of life is to give our lives away. Give your life away on purpose. If the greatest commandment is to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength, and the second is like the first, to love our neighbor as ourself, then to express our love for God, we have to love people, and the way we love people is by giving. Giving our time to someone who is lonely. Giving our ear to someone who is hurting. Giving our resources to help somebody.
Did you know that in Matthew, Mark, and Luke, one out of every six verses deals with money? Of the 29 parables Christ told, 16 deal with a person and money; more than half of Jesus’ parables reference our possessions. About our New Testament Lesson, Augustine said, “Where your pleasure is, there is your treasure; where your treasure is, there is your heart; where your heart is, there is your happiness.”
Self-absorption, self-seeking, and self-serving ambitions are all contradictory to the Christian life. Why is the self-help book section at Barnes and Nobles so crowded? Because people continue to seek ways to help themselves; self-reliance is overrated.